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Volunteering is a Work of Heart

The most rewarding and challenging role I held in the past was when I had the honour and privilege of training volunteers. I worked for a family support charity, called Home-Start. The charity relied heavily on volunteers to deliver their befriending service to struggling families. These families usually had more than 1 child under the age of 5, and sometimes suffered from loneliness and depression. Our volunteers being mothers themselves could empathise and were more than willing to help. With the right training and lots of mentoring support, they developed the confidence to deliver a superb service. The irony for me was that despite training volunteers, I had never volunteered in my life. Not in the formal sense anyway. In that role, I came to appreciate volunteers in a new way and I ensured that they felt valued and supported. We had an amazing experience and time together.

Upon hindsight, volunteering seemed like a strange concept for Pacific Islanders. We are always giving of our time and resources, it’s a huge part of our culture and its widely acceptable to help in any way we can. We don't even blink or think twice about extending a helping hand. It comes so naturally.And so volunteering seemed like a nuance. But I have quickly realised that here in the UK, most of the third sector relies heavily on volunteers and donations to meet a specific need in society.

Therefore, in this context, it makes sense to offer training and qualifications to volunteers to mitigate any risk but also deliver a robust and professional service. Most of the volunteers I recruited were initially looking for work and were unsuccessful due to being out of the workforce for so long, settling in a new country, starting or raising a family. So volunteer work was a way into paid work, with their newfound confidence and qualifications. It was an ideal win-win situation.

When I returned to the UK, I made an effort to get into volunteer work myself. I work as a volunteer grant proposal writer for a small UK charity and have fundraised for various charities over the years. I feel that with the right volunteer role, you will reap the rewards of your personal service. The biggest benefit would be improving your mental health, by utilising your skills to help a charity or support a cause; there is a mindset shift where the needs of others come before yours. You also acquire new skills and knowledge, and keeps your brain functioning and active. You also meet new people, learn different cultures or languages, and also form friendships around a shared common interest promoting social awareness and interaction. And if those reasons aren’t enticing enough, potential employers favour volunteer work highly. Its what you do in your spare time that is interesting to them, sometimes more than what you've achieved in your career!

It’s fair to say we don’t have a lot of spare time between a career or business and family commitments. And that is exactly why it’s pretty impressive to feature volunteer experience in your CV or promote as part of your business. If you’re lucky, you’ll secure a solid reference and gain free training and qualifications from your volunteer work. And if you’re socially responsible, you’ll create the right impact and influence for your business.

My son (aged 15) is currently undertaking some volunteer work as part of his Duke of Edinburgh award, and this is probably the most valuable part of the award (in my own opinion). The other parts are equally important but volunteer work will really build his character and instil in him a good work ethic from a young age. If anything, it will help him really appreciate his free time!

Having portrayed the benefits of volunteer work and my own experience, I cannot recommend highly enough volunteer work as a career and business coach. And the sooner we can embed this in our young people, the future remains hopeful. For those of you who undertake volunteer work in whatever capacity, well done and keep going, you're an inspiration! I would be interested to hear what kind of volunteer work you're involved in also, so drop me a line. If you're considering volunteering opportunities, check out the Reach website to register your skills and interest and if you need some advice on where to start, let me know.

My post is based on my own experiences and opinions. Thank you for taking the time to read.

Leonora x

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